26 January 2021 | Bryony Parker

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Government seeks to avert crisis for sugar beet farmers

The UK Government’s Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has granted an application for emergency authorisation allowing the use of an insecticide containing the neonicotinoid, thiamethoxam, for treating sugar beet seed in 2021.

The Government said that the decision was taken in recognition of the potential danger posed to the 2021 sugar beet crop from Virus Yellows. The authorisation was granted following advice from the Health and Safety Executive, the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides and Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser. Neonicotinoids have been linked with a reduction in the bee population.

In a statement; Minette Batters, President of the UK’s National Farmers Union said that along with covid-19, weather and ‘additional pest pressure’, the extreme impact of Virus Yellows disease had caused sugar beet yields to ‘plummet.’

‘Unfortunately UK growers currently have no other way of controlling the aphids that cause this disease, and there is no treatment for Virus Yellows once a crop is infected,’ Batters said. ‘NFU Sugar applied for the emergency use of a specific neonicotinoid for this year’s sugar beet crop because there is a crisis and there is no current alternative.’ Batters added ‘Growers, researchers and scientists alike are already working hard to find alternative ways of controlling Virus Yellows.’

Read the full SCI article on our news page.

SCI PoliSCI newsletter 26 January 2021 - Government seeks to avert crisis for sugar beet farmers - image of a farmer holding a sugar beet

Pre-COP26 plans take off

Applications have opened for an initiative to bring this year’s crucial climate change summit: COP26 to life. The event, hosted by the UK, will be held in Glasgow, Scotland during November 2021.

Businesses and academia, along with host of other groups are encouraged to submit applications to help shape the activities surrounding the two-week summit. The theme of climate change will provide an opportunity to demonstrate the UK’s science, technology and innovation landscape in light of tackling the world’s greatest challenges.

Collaborative proposals are encouraged and all expressions of interest must be submitted by 5pm on Friday 5 March 2021.

Among the eligibility criteria for participating in the UK-Government spaces of COP-26, businesses are required to have signed up to the Race to Zero: a collective agreement to demonstrate a commitment to a clean future.

Activities for COP26 are split into the Blue and Green Zone. The COP26 Blue Zone is a UN-managed space which hosts the negotiations, bringing together delegations from 197 countries and the Green Zone is managed by the UK-government and is a platform for the general public, youth groups, to name a few. The Green Zone will focus on education, awareness and commitments.

Applications can be submitted here and the downloadable PDF guidance pack can also be found here.

This call to action is part of a wider move to encourage businesses, organisations and individuals to inspire others to act on climate change in the run-up to COP26 through the Together for Our Planet campaign.

In similar news, the European Union has welcomed President Biden’s decision to take the US back in to the Paris Agreement on climate change, highlighting the importance of this in building momentum for COP26.

Alok Sharma, President of COP26, speaking at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week summit last week said: ‘I want this to be the year that all of us unite around the aims of the Paris Agreement’ and outlined the net zero targets and the policies required to deliver them including deployment of renewables, clean transport and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

SCI PoliSCI newsletter 26 January 2021 - Pre-COP26 plans take off - image of a flag for 2021 UN Climate Change Conference

Build Back Better Council launches

The UK government has launched the Build Back Better Council bringing together business leaders from across the British economy. Representatives from organisations such as Unilever, Johnson Matthey and GSK are among those representing the scientific community.

The council will aim to address the future plan to deliver economic recovery and growth following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Council members will also share their views on policies and highlight obstacles and solutions to aid economic recovery.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘This Build Back Better Council will ensure that government and businesses continue to work closely together. It will provide an important forum for frank feedback on our recovery plans and will help ensure the steps we are taking are the right ones.‘

SCI PoliSCI newsletter 26 January 2021 - Build Back Better Council launches - image of doctor holding a syringe with vaccine


Calls for evidence 

Zero emission vehicles and road pricing
This inquiry will consider the implications of accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles and the potential for introducing payment schemes.

Deadline: 17 February 2021

Find more information here.


The regulation of genetic technologies
DEFRA is seeking views on the legislation for GE organisms and breeding methods, following the UK leaving the EU.

Deadline: 17 March 2021

Further information can be found here.


Funding competitions

Commercialising Quantum Technologies: feasibility studies round 2
UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £7 million for feasibility studies or market research projects. Projects must last from 12 to 18 months and must end by 31 July 2023.

Deadline: 10 March 2021


ISCF TFI: large collaborative R&D projects
UK registered business or RTOs can apply for a grant share of up to £8 million for R&D projects to improve the UK’s foundation industries. Projects must last between 12 and 24 months.

Deadline: 10 March 2021


African agriculture knowledge transfer partnerships (KTP): 2020 to 2021, round 5
UK registered higher or further education institutions, RTOs or Catapults can apply for a share of up to £2 million to fund an innovation project. Business partner must be registered in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya or South Africa.

Deadline: 14 April 2021


Innovate UK Smart Grants January 2021
Opportunity for UK registered organisations to apply for a share of up to £25 million from Innovate UK for commercially viable R&D innovations. Projects can last between 6 to 36 months.

Deadline: 26 May 2021

You can find further details of the funding calls on the Government website.

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